Sir Edward Elgar is the ultimate English composer whose music sums up everyone’s nostalgia for what was once great about England and the English. And, it seems from this extract of his letter written exactly 120 years ago to Nimrod that he was also a great fan of Christmas food:
This is the shortest day so I set forth on the longest letter I ever wrote (to you) a regular Yule-loggy puddingy, Brandy-saucious letter. Christmas, my Boy! Law! Think where we were last year: Düsseldorf no less – & we smoked cigars at 15 pfrg pour la Noblesse in the streets of that city. […] We hope you are well & flourishing both businessily & domestically. I’m no hand at writing letters requiring invention. I can only run on and say things weakly: as thus: – I have had Xmas presents – all Wagner’s prose works (translated) 8 vols &&&&&& the Encyc. Brit. & the bookcase!!!! […] Much love to you all (I must read up Love in the Ency:). A merry Xmas to all at Curzon Rd (limited to No 37). Your austere & learned friend (34 vols & a bookcase) Paracelsus Elgar. (with a pain in his stomach) Mince Pizon.
(Letters to Nimrod from Edward Elgar; Ed. Percy M Young; Dennis Dobson)
Elbie Lebrecht has scoured the internet for the ideal recipe and found Paul Hollywood present one from his new book Bake on the ITV programme This Morning. The clip is classic English television humour. If you prefer to cut to the chase the complete recipe is printed below. The sponge base sounds delicious and is made without flour so it is a gluten free recipe.
And if you scroll down further you can find the French version of la bûche de Noël and, given that late 19th century France is where Yule Log cake originates from, one should find out how the French make it. The sponge recipe from chef Michel Dumas has the classic balance of equal weights of flour, sugar and eggs. Interestingly, he is a lot more generous with butter than we are in the English speaking world. The filling inside his log is not just whipped cream but also chocolate, rum, butter and mascarpone! Definitely worth watching for his overall technique. (Subtitles available in French)
Yule log ingredients from Paul Hollywood
For the base:
A little vegetable oil, to grease the tin
150g dark chocolate (45% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
6 large eggs, separated
150q caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
For the filling:
400ml double cream
A splash of orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or
Optional buttercream or ganache topping
For the chocolate buttercream:
270g butter, at room temperature
400g icing sugar
270g dark chocolate (45% cocoa solids), melted
For the ganache:
400ml of double cream
400g dark chocolate (45% cocoa solids)
Icing sugar, to dust
Orange-flavoured chocolate, for grating
- Heat your oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6. Line the base and sides of a 39 × 27 cm Swiss roll tin with baking paper and brush the paper with oil.
- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Leave to cool slightly.
- Using an electric hand whisk, beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until thick and creamy. Carefully fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture.
- Add the cocoa powder and fold in until smoothly combined.
- In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gently stir a large spoonful into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then carefully fold in the rest of the whisked egg whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the sponge is risen and just firm to touch.
- Turn out the cooked sponge onto a sheet of baking paper dusted with caster sugar and carefully remove the lining paper. Cover the sponge with a damp clean tea towel and leave to cool completely.
- To make the buttercream, melt the chocolate (as above) and let cool slightly.
- Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a bowl until smooth, add the cooled melted chocolate and mix well to combine.
- If choosing to make ganache topping instead. Heat the cream until it simmers. Stir in the finely chopped chocolate. Stir until combined and glossy. Allow to cool and then chill in the fridge until partially set. Use it to decorate the cake.
- Remove the damp tea towel from the cooled sponge and drizzle a splash of orange liqueur evenly over the surface. Whip the cream to soft peaks then spread evenly over the sponge, almost to the edges
- Roll up the sponge from the long side towards you, using the paper to help.
- Cut a slice off at an angle from one end. Place the roll on a serving plate and attach the slice so that it looks like a branch. Using a palette knife, spread the buttercream over the chocolate log, leaving the ends uncovered. Use a fork to mark lines and create a bark effect. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, dust the chocolate log with icing sugar and sprinkle with grated orange-flavoured chocolate.
And this is how the French make la bûche de Noël